Manny Pacquiao has reached the point where the years of hard fights are supposed to have taken their toll. He should be susceptible to younger fighters that are faster, stronger and hungrier. Saturday night that fighter was supposed to be Jesse Vargas — 10 years younger, 5 inches taller and possessing a 4 inch reach advantage. Instead, Pacquiao showed that he remains an all-time great way ahead of most competition by scoring a second round knockdown and winning a unanimous decision to recapture the WBO welterweight title.
It wasn’t a flawless performance by any means. Pacquiao isn’t the whirlwind of motion he was six years ago. Vargas had his moments were he caught Manny flush with right hands and appeared to have him stunned on a few occasions. But this fight made it clear that outside of Floyd Mayweather, there are few fighters from 140-147 pounds that can get the job done against Pacquiao.
FIRST HALF CHESS MATCH: Vargas’s game plan was to play the role of counter-puncher and catch Pacquiao when he rushed in behind the straight left. When they got close, he’d fire off short body shots (some went low) that forced Pacquiao back outside to reset. Occasionally, he’d lull Manny to sleep on the outside and catch him clean with a right cross.
The strategy resulted in enough clean, effective punching for me to give Vargas rounds 1, 4, and 6 over the first half. However, Pacquiao held a 57-56 advantage on the scorecards due to nailing Vargas with a counter left for a flash knockdown.
SECOND HALF WIPEOUT: Once Pacquiao figured out Vargas’ rhythm, it ceased being competitive from a scoring standpoint. Vargas would land the occasional solid right hand, but they couldn’t negate the volume of straights lefts and right hooks that caused swelling over his right eye and split open his face. On my scorecard, Pacquiao swept rounds 7-12 for a 117-110 score. Official scorecards had Pacquiao winning 114-113 and 118-109 twice.
NEXT ORDER OF BUSINESS: Hardcore fans have been clamoring for a “passing the torch” match with Pacquiao taking on young star Terence Crawford. After some pressure from Stephen A. Smith, Manny eventually said he wouldn’t mind facing Crawford at 140 pounds. Considering Pacquiao hasn’t competed at 140 in seven years, and his management team previously dismissing Crawford due to his “style,” I doubt the fight ever happens. A fight against the winner of Danny Garcia vs. Keith Thurman at the end of 2017 is a little more feasible, but I’d wager Pacquiao takes a safer contest like Amir Khan. Or, considering he was at ringside, we could get a rematch no one wants to see in the sparring contest that was Mayweather-Pacquiao.
— RoundByRoundBoxing (@RBRBoxing) November 6, 2016